5 Self-Sabotaging Behaviors That Keep You Stuck in Career Pain

woman-holding-head-Kathy Caprino

Back when I was in my corporate marketing career, the same negative things kept happening to me, wherever I’d go. Toxic bosses, backstabbing colleagues, lack-luster work, chronic illness and exhaustion, and the nagging feeling that I couldn’t use my talents and skills in ways I wanted, were just a few. I simply couldn’t figure out for the life of me why — wherever I went — it seemed that the same negative experiences re-emerged.

A bold friend who cared for me deeply finally said, “Kathy, I love you, but how can it be that everywhere you go the same bad stuff happens? Maybe you should seek some outside help.” I was so furious and hurt at her suggestion that I might be part of the problem, but I got over it, took her advice, and sought some help.

Now, 15 years later, after becoming a therapist and career coach, and fully transforming my life and career, I know exactly why these unhappy experiences were repeated again and again. And in working with thousands of professional women, I see how their same negative patterns are repeated as well. Only when take powerful internal steps to intervene and interrupt these patterns, will these mistakes and challenges stop, once and for all.

One powerful thing that therapy training gave me was an ability to look at myself deeply and fearlessly – to identify what was moving me, motivating me, and holding me back from more happiness and success. It was tough going in the beginning, to open my eyes to myself, but it changed my life.

When I began career coaching, I realized it would be essential to help people understand themselves better, to help them see themselves deeply without shame or denial, because  the vast majority of individuals I work with don’t have a clue about what makes them tick. The reality is that, from childhood on, there are themes that are present in our lives and our development – things we care about, hate, are drawn to, including our passions and interests, our frailties, the talents, skills and perspectives we possess that no one else does. We have also experienced certain types of traumas from our childhoods that shaped us. If you can learn to embrace these themes, and work with them (rather than break yourself against them) you’ll build a happier life and career. But if you disregard these themes and refuse to connect the critical dots, you’ll suffer. (Take my Career Path-Self Assessment to identify your core themes.)

You run away from your pain but never fully address it.

This week, I was working with a professional woman who’d reached a high level of success in her role in learning and development, but was suffering from feeling that she wasn’t being recognized or valued for her thinking and contributions, and it hurt her deeply. She was truly ready to quit her job without another one, just to make the pain stop (and to inflict pain on her boss).

As we dug deeper about this, I was sure there was something in her past that was a trigger for feeling disregarded and disrespected, but nothing in her childhood revealed this. Finally, she admitted that she’d been afraid since her teens that she’d be “found out” that she wasn’t smart – that people would realize that she was an impostor and take everything away from her that she’d worked so hard to earn. She saw suddenly how this deep-seated fear was, in fact, at the heart of the unhappiness she experienced in this current job, and why she was afraid to fight for what she deserved.

If you have pain of any kind at work, you have to address it and get to the root before you make any moves – before you quit, before you tell off your boss, before you go to HR to complain, before you interview for another job. Take the time to understand what’s at the root of the feelings you have, and identify how long you’ve felt them, and why. I’d venture a guess that, if you’re really honest, it’s been many years that you’ve been suffering with this pain. It’s time to fully address it. Don’t leap or make one single move before you do, because the unresolved pain will simply follow you in the next chapter.

Your communication style and approach hurts you on a daily basis.

Years ago, one boss of mine shared a truth that I failed to grasp at the time, but have realized is one of the most important concepts you can learn if you want a successful career. That concept is: everything in life comes down to relationships. If you do fabulous work yet people dislike, reject and mistrust you, you’ll never have the success you want.

Many of my clients over the years have been extremely talented and accomplished, yet their communication style repels people. They don’t know how to lead, manage, inspire, encourage others, or build a supportive “tribe” who will help them achieve their goals. And because they’re not happy in their careers and lives, they’re stuck in a “me, me, me” vantage point that is palpable, and pushes away great opportunities, colleagues, and supporters.

Your anger and resentment (and unhappiness) repel good outcomes.

When you’re unhappy where you are, this unhappiness can color everything you see, and thwart your success. If you’re resentful, too, that you haven’t been “given” and awarded what you think you deserve, your radar will be focused on what isn’t working and what you aren’t getting, rather than on expanding and enlarging what is working. If you feel dissatisfied with where you are in life and work today, it’s critical that you get control of your resentment, and make sure you’re not projecting that on everyone and everything you come in contact with. Shift yourself to a more positive frame of mind, and start looking intensively at what you’re grateful for, what’s going well, and what you want to expand in your life. As long as you’re focused on what’s wrong, you’ll be stuck re-creating negative outcomes.

You think that you’re better than everyone else.

Many people who come to me for career coaching suffering from feeling inadequate or a failure in some way. They’ve been hurt by what’s happened to them at work, and they’ve internalized their problems so they feel like they’ve let themselves and others down, and they’re not good enough.

But there is a subset of professionals who feel the opposite. These people feel they’re special, above others, and deserve more than others. They believe they’ve earned a higher place in the pecking order, yet aren’t getting it.

For these individuals, the key learning is that “Yes, you are special (everyone is), but you’re not better than everyone else.” Egotism and self-aggrandizement will absolutely be your downfall. I’ve seen that everyone is special in their own unique way, and for you to demonstrate your specialness, and to be rewarded, appreciated and recognized, you need to be of service to others in many more ways than you are now.

Instead of thinking how you’re better than others, think about how you can help – what new ways you can offer your many talents, services and capabilities to move the need of success for others. Until you let go of your rigid belief that you’re better than others, you’ll continue to receive feedback from the world that your focus and mindset need to shift.

Originally published at Forbes

Kathy Caprino

Kathy Caprino

Kathy Caprino currently runs a leadership and career success coaching and consulting firm focused on the advancement of women. A trained therapist and coach, Kathy has had the pleasure of working with over 10,000 emerging women leaders at Fortune 100 companies, national women's conferences, non-profits, academia and startups. Kathy has also served as a graduate instructor for New York University and career trainer for Mediabistro. She blogs for Forbes, Huffington Post, AARP's Life Reimagined and her own Ellia Communications career blog. Kathy is the author of Breakdown, Breakthrough: The Professional Woman's Guide to Claiming a Life of Passion, Power and Purpose. You can reach Kathy at www.elliacommunications.com, Amazing Career Project, and connect on Twitter @kathycaprino, Facebook, LinkedIn, and on Google+.

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